Colorado’s pioneering legalization of recreational marijuana has been a runaway success by all measures, with the state raking in tens of millions in new tax revenue, saving millions on adjudication of unnecessary marijuana cases, and witnessing a significant decline in crime rates as well. All of the state’s citizens have benefitted from legalization as ever-expanding marijuana tax revenues, which reached some $70 million last year and are expected to increase to as much as $125 million this year, are diverted to programs serving the public good. After voters allowed the state to keep the new tax revenue rather than return it to citizens in small cash rebates, out of last year’s marijuana revenue some $40 million has gone to school construction and $12 million to youth and substance abuse programs, with the remainder going to the state’s discretionary accounts.
Pueblo County, which is home to the nation’s largest commercial marijuana farm and has been hailed as “The Silicon Valley of Marijuana”, has pioneered an approach to grant its young citizens even more direct benefits from marijuana taxes after voters overwhelmingly approved of a plan to fund new scholarships for local students with new tax revenue. The scholarships, which will go into effect beginning in 2017, will be applicable to all graduates of Pueblo County schools who attend college in the county and will be funded by a 5% increase in taxes on commercial marijuana growers, a levy that is expected to bring in around $3.5 million per year. According to county lawmakers, if the program goes well it will likely be expanded in the coming years.
At a time when higher education has become prohibitively expensive for many Americans and most politicians seem unwilling to do anything about it, any decision to provide scholarships and other opportunities that allow more students access to the great equalizer of education is good news. Pueblo County’s progressive new program, as well as the benefits of marijuana revenue throughout Colorado, are just one more reason to end the war on drugs, which has proven to be a brutal, costly, destructive, and racist failure.
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